REAL BOY is the coming-of-age story of Bennett Wallace, a transgender teenager finding his voice—as a musician, a friend, a son, and a man.
The film follows Bennett over the first 3 1/2 years of his transition as he grapples with issues of identity, sobriety, and connection to the people he loves. And the person he loves most is his mom, Suzy, who struggles to accept and understand his decision to transition.
As Suzy works to overcome her misgivings, Bennett finds support in the people who understand him best—his musical hero Joe Stevens, a celebrated transgender musician fighting his own demons; and his best friend Dylan, another trans teen on a similar path to young manhood.
At its heart, REAL BOY is a story about growing up. It’s a story about the meaning of family, given and chosen. And it’s a story about how our search for identity isn’t just personal, but involves those closest to us.
British Film Institute: “Real Boy is often raw and breathtakingly honest, but it is to the film’s credit that it never judges its characters. It is impossible not to feel a sense of awe at the resilience, courage and maturity of young trans people.”
World premiere at the BFI Flare Festival 2016. North American premiere at Independent Film Festival Boston (IFFBoston 2016), where Andrew Gersh was presented with the Karen Schmeer Award for Excellence in Documentary Editing.
Produced and Directed by Shaleece Haas. Read more about the film here.
What lies at the root of America’s fatherhood crisis? Daddy Don’t Go takes an intimate look at the struggles of four diverse, disadvantaged NYC fathers to beat the odds stacked against them and defy the deadbeat dad stereotype. Fighting against homelessness, unemployment, bureaucracy and, in some cases, a criminal past, Alex, Nelson, Roy and Omar want nothing more than to honor their responsibilities and provide for their children. Daddy Don’t Go offers a moving portrait of what it means to be a good father, despite life’s circumstances. World premiere at DOC NYC 2015. Directed by Emily Abt, Co-Director Andrew Osborne. Read more here.
Lawyer turned social advocate Amlan Ganguly doesn’t rescue children; he empowers them through education and activism to battle poverty and transform their lives and communities. The Revolutionary Optimists follows Amlan and the children he works with—Shika, Salim, Kajal and Priyanka—as they staunchly fight against the forces that oppress them. Utilizing theater and dance, and supported by Amlan’s own considerable charm and skills of persuasion, these young activists are campaigning for clean water and improved sanitary conditions in their communities and struggling to ensure that children laboring in the brick fields on the outskirts of Calcutta are receiving an education.
Shot over the course of three years, Maren Grainger-Monsen and Nicole Newnham’s film vividly captures the vibrancy of India while taking us on an intimate journey with these children, during which we witness not only the changes they are able to make in their neighborhood, but also the changes within each of them.
The Revolutionary Optimists proposes a workable solution to intractable problems associated with poverty, including preventable diseases and ineffectual governance. Ganguly’s story suggests that education and child empowerment are crucial keys to lifting entire societies out of hopelessness.
Produced and Directed by Nicole Newnham and Maren Grainger-Monsen. The film opens nationwide in March of 2013, screens at ITVS Community Cinema events across the country through the spring, and will have its television premiere on PBS’ Independent Lens June 17th at 10pm (check local listings). Read reviews in The Village Voice and The Hollywood Reporter. The film has been nominated for a 2014 News and Documentary Emmy® Award.
A short film based on The Revolutionary Optimists was shown worldwide as part of TEDxChange, presented by Melinda Gates and developed in partnership with the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program.
Each year, 60,000 people from around the globe gather in a dusty windswept Nevada desert to build a temporary city, collaborating on large-scale art and partying for a week before burning a giant effigy in a ritual frenzy. Rooted in principles of self-expression, self-reliance and community effort, Burning Man has grown famous for stirring ordinary people to shed their nine-to-five existence and act on their dreams. Spark takes us behind the curtain with Burning Man organizers and participants, revealing a year of unprecedented challenges and growth. When ideals of a new world based on freedom and inclusion collide with realities of the “default world,” we wonder which dreams can survive.
Writes the New York Times: “The portraits here offer West Coast idealism and conviction coupled with an extravagant aesthetic vision. Since we can’t all attend Burning Man, we can be thankful for “Spark,” which is probably the next best thing.”
SPARK: A Burning Man Story had its world premiere at the 2013 South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival in Austin, TX, and has also been accepted to the Ashland Independent and Seattle International film festivals. SPARK is the opening night film of the 2013 SF DocFest and opens in New York and Los Angeles on August 16th. Produced and Directed by Steve Brown and Jessie Deeter. Read more at the official website.
When Donna Appell learned that her baby daughter Ashley suffered from a rare genetic disorder that would kill her in 30 years, she was told there were less than 30 people in the US who had been diagnosed with it and no one knew where to find them. Realizing that no one was going to help cure “just one child,” Donna set about forming an advocacy group and harnessing the internet to gather as many patients as possible who suffered from Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome (HPS), which includes albinism, blindness, a bleeding disorder and often a fatal pulmonary fibrosis.
Filmed with intimate access over three years, the film follows Donna and her advocacy group as they travel to Puerto Rico and throughout the US in a race to fill a drug trial they hope could prolong her daughter’s life.
Produced and Directed by Maren Grainger-Monsen and Nicole Newnham. Check your local PBS listings and read more about the film HERE.
SOUND TRACKS: Music Without Borders is a new magazine show dedicated to reporting unheard stories that reveal how music is transforming politics and culture around the globe. The one-hour series pilot crosses three continents and serves up a diverse menu of Russian pop, Afrobeat, Portuguese fado, and symphonic work. Produced by The Talbot Players in association with Oregon Public Broadcasting for PBS. Marco Werman from Public Radio International’s “The World” hosts.
In the featured segment “Black President,” Werman travels to Nigeria to cover the living legacy of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti and meet his youngest son, Seun.
“Black President” was produced by Cassandra Herrman and edited by Andrew Gersh. Watch the entire segment at PBS/Sound Tracks.
New York Times San Francisco Chronicle
In collaboration with National Geographic, NOVA follows the exploits of acclaimed photojournalist James Balog and a scientific team as they deploy time-lapse cameras in risky, remote locations in the Arctic, Alaska, and the Alps. Grappling with blizzards, fickle technology, and climbs up craggy precipices, the team must anchor cameras capable of withstanding sub-zero temperatures and winds up to 170 mph. The goal of Balog’s team’s perilous expedition: to create a unique photo archive of melting glaciers that could provide a key to understanding their runaway behavior and their potential to drive rising sea levels. A production of NOVA and National Geographic Television.
Produced and Directed by Noel Dockstader. Watch the entire film at PBS/NOVA.
A celebration of individuality and the spirit of the American working class, READY, SET, BAG! (premiered at festivals as “Paper or Plastic?”) is an award-winning feature documentary following eight grocery-bagging state champions as they prepare for the nationals, held in the Mecca of the American dream, Las Vegas. Rural housewives, college students, awkward teens and lower management duke it out over speed, weight distribution and the X-factor of crushability.
An Ensemble Pictures Production. Produced by Justine Jacob. Directed by Justine Jacob & Alex D. da Silva.
As wars rage in the Middle East, the U.S. military is eager for more recruits–unless they happen to be openly gay. ASK NOT explores the tangled political battles that led to the infamous “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and reveals the personal stories of gay Americans who serve in combat under a veil of secrecy. ITVS Community Cinema screenings will include special presentations and discussions with leading community organizations in over 50 locations around the country. Watch the national broadcast premiere on PBS’ Emmy-award winning series, Independent Lens. San Francisco Int’l Film Festival
It’s an epidemic of what some call state-sanctioned torture in America: the solitary confinement of thousands of incarcerated teenagers, locked in cells the size of small bathrooms for up to 23 hours a day. ALONE: Teens in Solitary Confinement investigates New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex, where unconvicted teens often find themselves confined in ‘the box’ for months at a time. It takes a candid and critical look at one of the most controversial forms of incarceration affecting adolescents in the United States; a form of punishment shrouded in secrecy.
ALONE is featured in the premiere episode of “REVEAL,” a new, four-part series for public television presented by Oregon Public Broadcasting. It has also shown at film festivals around the world, including the 2014 Social Justice and UNSPOKEN Human Rights film festivals.
ALONE: Teens in Solitary Confinement was produced and directed by Daffodil Altan for the Center for Investigative Reporting. Read more here.